I guess when you are given lemonade, you make a state song. In 1930s through the 1950s popular media, anytime a goofy "Slackjaw" was depicted, the Arkansas Traveler would play in the background. It was the "go to" song for down home goobers. A real "sligh tapper" if you wish. The original song melody was written by one Colonel Sanford C. Faulkner of the Confederacy.
There are as many versions as there are Arkansanianers. It became a generic melody for all manner of rhymes and tales, most of them involving some flashy fiddle playing, drunk jokes and one tooth yokels. Aw, huck, gawrsh, that's a purty song, I feel like dancin, Ayup! The song even became the unofficial theme song of Foghorn Leghorn! "I'm telling you, that's a JOKE son! "
In vaudeville, it was an excuse for a country bumpkin' to poke sly fun at the city slicker. There is a well-known version in which a goofus named Bocephus grabs a bumblebee and puts it in his mouth. He hurls it back up after being stung, all accompanied with frantic arm pantomine!
School children used to sing the song before naptime...in their version, a red nosed hillbilly puts off fixing his roof because a sunny day will come soon, so why bother?
The versions I am most familiar with are by the Skillet Lickers and even earlier, the one by FIddlin' John Carson. In his version, a trippy drone overwhelms the entire melody, but if you lean in close, you can pick out the "turkey in the straw" like tune. Both are great, but Carson creates a real mood...It sounds almost psychedelic...maybe that is why Jerry Garcia later recorded it.
Check it out.
Far and far away down in Arkansas There lived a squatter with a stubborn jaw. His nose was ruby red and his whiskers gray And he would sit and fiddle all the night and all the day.
The Laurel and Hardy short The Music Box, also known as The Piano Movers uses the tune briefly. Now THAT is high honor. This may be one of the few songs with Arkansas in the title, but still, it seems an odd choice for official state song, but that is what it was for some 20 years...an expunged version was commissioned by the state...gone were most of the h'yuk h'yuk references, and we are left with golden grains waving in the wind. It lasted until being put out to pasture as the state "historical song" in 1987.
Now you state historians don't bother writing in...I just wanted to post the John Carson song here...so take no offense and don't bother to correct any mistakes.
You can not do any better than Bill Monroe (no matter what you are trying to do) so here is his version. You can yell yehaw after any solo.
Real Photo Postcard collection Jim Linderman circa 1910